Three of my main thoughts from this semester:
- I wish I had been a little more proactive in reaching out to students who were struggling. Alas, I am a student too, and I allowed myself to get somewhat distracted by my other obligations (15 credits, two jobs, preparation for going abroad this spring), and some of them who were more like I was as a student taking Digital Civilization kind of got lost in the shuffle. To you students (I'm sure you know who you are), I apologize. This brings me to thought number two:
- I wish I had been able to help every student catch the vision of this class. I wanted each student to realize what he or she had to bring to the table and help all of the students realize that this class was about helping them unlock their learning potential. Sigh. It's hard to explain. I wish they had seen this new class not as restrictions in different ways, but as a platform for exploring the ways they learn best and then using them to consume information, create ways to share it, and connect with other people. Maybe we instructors should've had everyone do a post at the beginning of the semester listing their strengths and what they love and how they learn best. Then we could've had them channel their energies to learning in the ways that most appealed to them. My heart aches when I read posts from my students who felt like they were failing. You weren't failing! You weren't doomed to crash and burn! Every student had the potential to do well in this class. I didn't help you realize the ways you were succeeding. And part of that has to do with grading, which brings me to point number three:
- Boo hiss grades. I would get rid of them if I could. We did formative grading (grades to show/encourage progress) rather than summative grading (giving points for assignments that would add up to a final grade) throughout the semester, and unfortunately, the distinction between the two wasn't always clear. Darn traditional learning paradigms. I feel like when you catch the vision of this class, grades don't matter. Or at least grades aren't the best way to show progress in learning. Now, I'm not talking about singing kumbaya and saying everyone is the same and bringing everyone down to the level of mediocrity. No. I'm just saying that the structures we impose on learning sometimes hinder rather than help it. And grading is hard for me. I agonize over it. Part of it is that I feel like people will hate me for it. It's a lot of pressure, ya know? Which is why I'm not yet finished...
Digital Civilization is an unconventional class, to say the least. Some of the things we did as instructors collectively and that I did personally didn't work so well. I do feel the need to apologize for communication not being better, but I do NOT feel the need to apologize for being willing to take on a grand experiment, to try something new and different that had the potential to either be wildly successful or to go down in flames.
But thinking of it in either brilliant success or dismal failure isn't the right way to go about it either. If there's one thing I've learned over the past year since I took Digital Civilization, it's that the process has power. Learning is a process that doesn't start or stop with the beginning or end of semesters. And we need to stop thinking that only the products (things like papers, grades, and even diplomas) are the only things that really matter, because they're not. They're NOT! (Obviously I feel rather strongly about this--can't you tell?) The process of learning, growing, and changing has perhaps even more value than the tangible products. We should start thinking of the products as part of the big continuous process and not the other way around--the process as a means to the produce the product. Yeah, and during that process, you run into bumps. You realize that some things don't work. You back up, crash, go forward a little, and crash again. Learning and experimenting is a messy process. And eventually you meet with success sometimes. But guess what?? Meeting with success doesn't mean you're done either. It's all a part of the process, people.
Stepping off my soapbox, I would like to thank all the students in Digital Civilization this semester for making this an intriguing and exciting semester. And a special thanks to Dr. Daniel Zappala and Dr. Gideon Burton for their excellent work and their vision to keep this all going. It has certainly been a wild ride, and I am honored to have been a part of it. This stage of my learning process is over, but the journey never ends--I'm looking into doing research for a professor in the Instructional Psychology and Technology department here on campus, I'm taking Digital Culture from Dr. Burton in the fall (hooray!), and I'm considering applying to the IP&T program at BYU for Fall 2013. Life is good.
Except that I still have grading and finals and papers to do... Wish me luck.